A while ago, we had a construction site survey planned and decided to postpone it because of the tropical storm remnants. In my mind anytime there’s a hint of rain we automatically cancel scheduled flights based on our safety protocols.
But I’ve always wondered what would happen if I flew my drone in the rain. Purely hypothetical. Well, turns out there’s a LOT of information on this topic. So as usual I did a bunch of research, ran some tests (not in the rain), and wrote an article. Turns out it is possible to fly in the rain (but not recommended).
The Phantom 4 Pro is neither water-resistant nor waterproof, and even a small amount of moisture can enter the drone frame and damage the drone’s internal components. Water can cause the battery to short-circuit creating a fire hazard. Water can also create short circuits in the internal electronic control circuitry causing short-term loss of control and long-term corrosion damage. However, if you take specific precautions, flying in the rain is possible (but not recommended).
The Phantom 4 Pro is a great drone for both beginner and experienced users alike however, it is important to be aware of its limitations in terms of water resistance.
One major caveat for this article, typically we refer to our own experiences in these articles. However, there’s no way we’re gonna fly our drone in the rain so you’ll have to rely on our research. If anyone would like to donate a drone for us to run experiments, we will be happy to do the work.
What Is Water Resistance Versus Waterproof?
Though these terms are often used interchangeably, they actually refer to two different things. Water resistant means that the drone can withstand some exposure to water, but it is not designed to be submerged. Waterproof drones, on the other hand, are built to be used in wet conditions and can safely be submerged in water. If you’ll mostly be flying in fair weather, a water-resistant drone should suffice.
We will assume in this article that you want a water-resistant drone. See our article I’m waterproof drones to find the best underwater drones on the market for your needs.
What Are The Levels of Water Resistance?
There are different levels of water resistance, which are indicated by ingress protection or IP rating. The higher the number, the greater the level of protection. When deciding whether or not to fly your drone in the rain, it’s important to keep your drone’s IP rating in mind.
What Is The IP rating?
An IP rating, or Ingress Protection rating, is used to specify the environmental protection of enclosures around electronic equipment. The ratings are determined by specific tests that measure the ability of a device to resist water and dust intrusion.
The first number in an IP code (e.g., the “6” in IP67) refers to the level of protection against solid objects, such as dust. The second number (e.g., the “7” in IP67) refers to the level of protection against water. Water-resistant drones will have a stated IP rating. The Phantom 4 Pro does not have an IP rating so this means that it is not designed for water resistance. Here are the different levels of protection:
Why Fly In The Rain?
This entire article Begs the question: why would you ever fly your drone in the rain? We’ll assume your not just some wacko that likes to destroy drones.
We typically use our Phantom 4 Pro for mapping and surveying, our safety protocols require that we postpone any job in the event of bad weather conditions. However, this may be a valid case where you could justify flying in the rain for short periods of time to complete the job.
Flying in the rain or any bad weather condition may allow you to get unique photos or images or videos that would not be possible in fair weather. This might be another valid scenario for flying in rain.
Drones will become increasingly more important to help first responders in the event of weather emergencies, firefighting, or to support law enforcement. In these cases, drones may need to fly in bad weather whether it’s rain or high winds.
Another application would be for agriculture where are you we need to fly missions of very large areas of land potentially where it would not make sense to interrupt the mission in the event of bad weather.
However, in all of these cases, we recommend using a drone that is intended for use in bad weather and has an adequate IP rating to ensure a safe and successful mission. The Phantom 4 Pro does not have an IP rating so technically it is not intended for use and rain.
How Does Water Affect Phantom 4 Pro?
How Does Water Get Into The Drone
There are a few ways that water can get into a drone, the most common being through air intakes. Drones rely on air to cool their internal components, and the air intakes are how they draw in this air. Water can also enter through cracks or openings in the drone’s body.
Lastly, water can condense inside the drone if there is a temperature difference between the drone’s internal components and the outside air. This can happen if the drone is brought into a warm room after being flown in cold weather. While this condensation won’t cause damage on its own, it can contribute to corrosion if it isn’t removed.
Water and electrical components do not mix. Water conducts electricity, which leads to short circuits and even fires. Drones contain a number of sensitive electronics that are vulnerable to water.
Electronic Speed Controller (ESC)
The ESC is one of the most important components of a drone. It regulates the motor speed and helps keep the drone stable in the air. When water gets into the ESC, it can cause a short circuit. This can lead to loss of control of the drone.
Flight Controller Board
The flight controller board contains a GPS module, compass, gyroscope, and other sensors that all work together to provide current and accurate information about the drone’s location and orientation. This information is then used by the drone pilot to control the drone and keep it on course. The flight controller board provides safety features that help to prevent crashes. like return-to-home capability. Water damage to this board will be catastrophic.
Drone batteries are made of lithium-ion, which can be damaged if it is exposed to water or if it is overcharged. When the drone battery is damaged, it can cause a fire and in some cases, the drone may even explode.
How Can I Protect Phantom 4 Pro From Water?
Drone Wet Suit
This is the simplest and most effective way to protect your drone from the elements. The wetsuit is a waterproof skin that fits over the drone and protects the air vents from water ingress.
Because the Phantom 4 Pro is no longer being manufactured, this accessory is difficult to find. Your best bet is eBay
External Frame Sealant
If you don’t have a drone wet suit, you can protect your drone by applying a water-repellent spray. This is similar to the spray used on shoes. It will only protect against water ingress through cracks in the frame, so it’s not a great solution because most water enters through the air vents. Be sure to follow the instructions carefully.
Sealant For Internal Electronics
There are two main types of sealants: silicone and acrylic. Both have their own advantages and disadvantages.
We definitely recommend using a brush on the applicator versus a spray-on. The spray is difficult to control so tends to go everywhere. We also recommend purchasing some isopropyl alcohol for cleanup or in case you want to remove the sealant.
Silicon is a clear, waterproof sealant that can be applied to electronics to create a barrier against water and moisture. It can protect your electronics from extreme temperatures as well. To apply silicon sealant, first clean the surface of the electronics with a lint-free cloth. Then, apply a thin layer of silicon sealant to the surface with a silicone brush or applicator. Allow the silicon sealant to dry for 24 hours before using the electronics. If you need to remove the silicon sealant, simply use a razor blade to scrape it off. Be careful not to damage the surface of the electronics while you’re doing this.
Acrylic sealants are less flexible than silicon, but they’re much easier to remove and won’t damage most surfaces. They’re also not as resistant to heat, so they’re not ideal for use in high-temperature electronics. However, acrylics are a good choice for electronics that will be handled frequently.
Sealing your electronics will require that you access the internal components of your drone. Be warned that this may invalidate your warranty. We definitely recommend you check with your warranty provider before breaking the frame seals on your drone.
Rain vs Fog vs Snow
Flying Phantom 4 Pro in Fog
Fog is not as dense as rain so the risk of water damage is slightly less compared to rain. Even so, you can expect your drone to get wet if you spend a significant amount of time flying. So it may be OK to fly for a short time in the fog, but eventually, you can expect to have problems. And this is not even considering the operational concerns with maintaining line of sight and sensor confusion due to fog.
Flying Phantom 4 Pro in Snow
Surprisingly, snow is less of a problem than fog or rain. Snow tends to fall vertically and because the Phantom 4 Pro intake vents are on the bottom there’s less chance of snow entering the chassis. Also, the propellers tend to create an airflow that moves the snow away from the drone. While water damage is less of an issue with snow, maintaining a visual line of sight to your drone may become a problem.
Does DJI’s Warranty Cover Water Damage?
The DJI Drone Warranty covers manufacturing defects and faults. This includes any problems that occur with the drone itself, as well as any issues that arise from normal wear and tear. The warranty does not cover damages that occur due to “misuse or abuse” of the drone, such as crashing it into objects or submerging it in water.
We checked the DJI warranty overview and listed the exemptions. Items #5 and #6 suggest that damages from flying in rain are not covered under your warranty, because the user manual expressly recommends against flying in rain.
The following situations are not subject to warranty service conditions:
1. Crash or burning caused by non-manufacturing factors.
2. Damage caused by unauthorized modification, disassembling, or shell opening which did not follow the instruction of official manuals.
3. Damage caused by improper installation, or incorrect use or operation despite the guidance of manuals.
4. Damage caused by unauthorized modification of circuit, mismatch, or misuse of battery and charger.
5. Damage caused by any flights which didn’t follow the instructions of the manuals.
6. Damage caused by operation in bad weather (i.e. strong wind, rain, sand/dust storm)
7. Damage caused by operating the unit in an electromagnetic interference environment (i.e. mining area, radio transmitting tower, high-voltage wire, substation).
8. Damage caused by operating the unit in a known environment with interference with other wireless devices (i.e. transmitter, video-link, Wi-Fi signals).
What To Do If Your Phantom 4 Pro Gets Wet
If your is wet and you believe there’s a danger of water damage, follow this process immediately.
Shut down your drone. If you can, remove the battery and take out the SD card (if your drone has one). Water and batteries don’t mix, so it’s important to remove the battery as soon as possible. Removing the SD card will help protect your footage from water damage.
Turn the drone upside down and shake it gently: This will help remove any water that may have gotten into the drone’s motors or other compartments.
Use compressed air to blow or a hair dryer to remove any water that may still be in the drone. Be careful not to use too much force, as you don’t want to damage any of the drone’s delicate parts.
Dry it off: Use a clean, dry towel to blot away as much water as possible, both inside and out. Again, water and electronics don’t mix, so you want to remove as much of the liquid as you can.
Break up in the frame if you feel comfortable, wrap the drone in a thin towel, and place the whole thing in the tub of rice. Rice is a desiccant that draws water away from the drone.
Place the drone in a warm, dry place to finish drying. Avoid placing it in direct sunlight, as this could damage the drone. Wait a minimum of 24 hours and attempt to restart the drone. If the drone works fly a few very simple test flights to ensure that it’s completely operational.
If the drone does not work then contact your drone repair service, next call your credit card company and make sure that you have a very high limit on your card because the repairs will not be cheap. For more information on starting your business see our article “How To Start A Drone Business (Part-1)“
Lightwave Aerial is a professional drone service company based in Northern Virginia. Our pilots are all FAA Part-107 certified. We offer a full range of aerial photo/video production services, aerial mapping, and aerial inspection.
At Lightwave Aerial, we are dedicated to providing professional drone services that help our clients achieve their goals. Contact us today to find out more about how we can help you with your next construction project!